Without wanting to sound cliched, The Sisters are all of us. But in fairness that doesn’t tell you how the brand came to fruition or about the people behind it, so here goes!
Some years ago, a family planted a small vineyard in Marlborough, and sent their grapes to Lawson’s Dry Hills to be made into wine. They had one label at the time, called Blind River. This wine was exceptionally good and continues to be a benchmark Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
In the late 2000’s, there was a really big yield and too many grapes for just the Blind River label. The family decided to create another wine label and they called it The Sisters, after their three daughters. Lawson’s Dry Hills made this wine for the family too.
In 2012 the family decided to sell the vineyard and as Lawson’s had made the wines for many years and knew just how amazing the fruit was, it was an easy decision for the company to purchase the land.
In 2014, Belinda Jackson joined the LDH team as GM for Blind River and was immediately faced with making decisions around The Sisters brand. The label design depicted the faces of the three sisters themselves, in a very strong graphic, and this was a challenge. If there’s one thing we know today, it’s that authenticity is very important and as there was no family involved in the brand anymore, there were no sisters so to speak, and therefore, no authentic story.
The wine was selling a bit in Australia and a limited amount here in New Zealand. Belinda’s choices were to either let it carry on as it was, stop producing it altogether or relaunch it as something new, exciting and relevant to today’s market. You can probably work out that she went for the third option, deciding this was an opportunity to create a meaningful and relevant wine brand, predominantly made for women.
The ‘Belinda’ Factor
This was a very genuine development from Belinda as she felt strongly that existing wine brands made for female audiences were patronising and condescending, metaphorically patting us on the head. Not only cringe-worthy to any self-respecting woman, many of whom have been battling gender stereotypes for years, these brands seemed to be encouraging women, especially mums, to drink as a way of coping. Not acceptable! She felt (rightly or wrongly) that some of these brands were being created by big, multi-national producers in corporate boardrooms with little meaning or depth, and even less authenticity.
And she was conscious of another movement – the pressure to do more, to be more. Pick up a glossy mag on one of those rare occasions you get to sit down for a minute (probably in a waiting room) and there it is again – another article telling you how to cook the perfect meal, raise the perfect children, crack that glass ceiling at work. Belinda wanted women to recognise and acknowledge that they are already achieving a huge amount, every day. From eight hours at work, to getting kids to sport, a meal on the table, the washing done and paying the bills, to community involvement and goodness only knows what else. These might be small, everyday things that we take for granted, but they are achievements, and they are worth acknowledging and celebrating. Life isn’t always about the big things such as the engagement, the new job, new house, but the little things that add up to making people’s lives what they are. Feeling loved, cared for, valued. For meeting, and often exceeding, expectations at work and at home. We are enough. You are enough.
The Sisters – wine for women who do extraordinary things, every day. That’s us.
That’s not to say Belinda doesn’t support ambition and personal growth – she certainly does, as does The Sisters brand, but not when it is to the detriment of ignoring the present. Ambition and progress come from all that we are, all that we have done and are doing. Let’s not dismiss it in our hurry to reach the next milestone – especially if it’s a milestone we feel pressured to reach, rather than something that is personally fulfilling.
As a busy mum herself and with significant experience at many levels during her career, Belinda knew The Sisters was a chance to create a brand that had relevance for today’s multi-tasking women, but without the patronising undertones.
The name ‘The Sisters’, was inherited as you can now see, but it was perfect in that it allowed for the brand to become a ‘sisterhood’ and form a supportive community rather than just refer to actual siblings.
For a Good Cause
‘Walking the talk’ was another important element. In the early days, the brand supported a number of female-focused, not-for-profit groups and events and one has remained the brand’s focus – Dress for Success. This extraordinary organisation is a global not-for-profit that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and development tools to help them thrive in work and in life. Since starting operations in 1997, Dress for Success has expanded to almost 150 cities in 25 countries and has helped more than 1.2 million women work towards self-sufficiency.
In fact, Belinda is so keen to support DFS, she has met with the Global CEO in New York and the UK CEO in London. Her long-term vision is to donate an amount for every bottle purchased, to facilitate the notion of women helping other women. Currently, The Sisters is only sold in New Zealand, but Belinda is actively looking for suitable export partners.
The Sisters Growth
Initially, the brand had great engagement thanks to a very skilled ‘sister’ who, working for Belinda, was totally focused on managing social media and the tone of voice of the brand. She truly helped bring Belinda’s vision to life. Once this partnership came to an end, there was less focus on The Sisters brand. A number of options were discussed and some trialed but with Belinda looking after global markets and a number of different brands, The Sisters just wasn’t able to be managed with the same intensity, by her alone.
That brings us too today. Sales of the wines are continuing to grow, especially through great support from the Woolworths Group via their Countdown stores. We have recently launched with Black Market as our online partner, which will make it more convenient for people to purchase our wines. We see some exciting developments ahead to make sure The Sisters delivers on its promise of being a supportive, relevant, enjoyable wine brand that encourages women to get together with their girlfriends and acknowledge their many everyday achievements!